A Smarter Way to Fundraise: Explore Classy’s Fundraising Intelligence Suite

25 of the Best Fundraising Ideas for Growth

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Published May 13, 2019 Reading Time: 7 minutes

Historically, the path to nonprofit growth has been ill-defined. In fact, according to Tracy Palandjian of Social Finance, “of the 200,000 or so nonprofits that were created between 1975 and 2008, only 200—that’s 0.1 percent of these nonprofits—have reached 50 million in annual revenues.”

But the tides are turning. An increasing number of nonprofits are shifting from traditional approaches, adapting to changing donor preferences and technology, and adopting modern techniques.

While it takes a concerted effort to grow an organization, there are many ways to expand that don’t involve new hires or back-breaking investments. To help you identify your next fundraising win, here’s a list of relatively low-lift tactics that drive high-lift results.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

With the right fundraising software, you can empower your organization’s biggest supporters to leverage their personal networks on behalf of your cause. Below are four tactics to try that can quickly yield serious results.

1. Encourage Birthday Campaigns

When The Honor Foundation presented their community with the opportunity to dedicate birthdays to the cause, they quickly raised $80,000.

Feature this option on your website and highlight it in your communications. You could even dedicate an entire campaign to its launch to raise awareness.

2. Provide Educational Materials

Team Rubicon found that when they sent a group of fundraisers a tips sheet, that group was able to raise three times more than those who did not receive the resource.

Grab our customizable fundraising tips sheet, slap your branding on there, and send it off to your supporters.

Get the Guide to Creative Fundraising Ideas

3. Encourage Teams and Captains

On average, captains receive larger donations, and multi-year captains tend to raise 2 to 3 times more than brand new captains.

Reach out to dedicated supporters and ask them to start a fundraising team. Make sure to provide these captains with the advice they need to help their teammates crush their goals.

4. Empower Fundraisers to Throw Third-Party Events

Do your supporters have what they need to host a successful third-party event? Dedicate time to create a strategy and resource kit, and your community can host their own fundraising events on behalf of your organization.

Get the Guide to Third-Party Events

Recurring Giving

A recurring giving program provides sustainable revenue you can depend on. And the more you can depend on, the more freedom you have to test new strategies. Try these two tactics to grow this revenue stream.

5. Highlight Perks

To attract new monthly gifts, let visitors know they’re joining a special group that is critical to your success—and that that special group gets special treatment! Whether you offer exclusive communications or branded swag, make sure your appeal language spotlights what’s unique about this level of support front and center.

6. Up Your Ask

Whether it’s through marketing automation, a phone call, or an email campaign, take the time to ask for an upgrade on an annual basis. Even if your donor only increases their contribution by $5/month, that’s $60 extra dollars a year that can add up quickly across a large donor base.

Recurring giving was one area leveraged by organizations on The Classy 100 to grow their organization’s success. Explore the full list to see organizations just like you, get campaign examples, and download a free growth kit.

Get the Nonprofit Growth Guide


Events may be a staple of your annual revenue, but are yours built to grow and scale? Here are four ways to raise more revenue within the same physical restraints.

7. Add Fundraising

Automatically create a fundraising page for event attendees upon registration. The Y in Central Maryland increased their event revenue by 46 percent when they adopted software that made this possible.

Read How They Did It

Establish a sense of urgency and build a narrative that encourages your supporters to raise a certain amount before the event in order to unlock day-of prizes.

8. Incorporate a Virtual Component

Don’t let geography stop you. Incorporate a virtual component to your event and make sure that supporter in Alabama has a way to feel connected to the happenings in California.

One example is a virtual 5K. Send registrants a thank you pack and set them up with a fundraising page so they can share the experience from afar. That pack could include a bib and other gear so they can run along in their own town.

9. Conduct Volunteer Training

Volunteers are valuable assets for your organization, especially when they become fundraisers. Consider asking your volunteers to raise funds in order to participate in certain trips or projects in the field. With individual fundraising pages, it’s easy for the volunteers to support their own efforts.

In addition to the right tools, be sure to give your volunteers the education they need to knock it out of the park. Their positive experience will enhance your events and lead to more positive word-of-mouth, and ultimately, more support.

10. Make It Competitive

Establish a healthy sense of competition at your event by clarifying your goals and intended impact. Outline what’s at stake, the specifics driving your goals, and incentives for “winners.”

Grow Your Event
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A well-designed crowdfunding campaign strategically employs language, timing, and technology to drive conversions. Here are three ways to take it to the next level.

11. Have a Matching Period

To double the impact of your next major gift, use it to set up a matching period within a crowdfunding campaign.

Let your supporters know that for a limited time, their gift can mean twice as much. The sense of urgency combined with the opportunity to do greater good will have donors scrambling for their wallets.

12. Use Mobile-Responsive Pages

Make sure your fundraising software offers mobile-responsive pages that let your donors easily give on the go. Fifty-one percent of traffic to Classy is from mobile devices.

13. Design Pages for Conversions

Gather only must-have information and keep your page free of distractions that might deter someone from converting on your page.

Read Next: 6 Tips to Improve Donation Page Conversion Rates


Small tweaks to your email strategy can go a long way. Use these tactics to resonate with supporters and grow and retain your subscriber list.

14. Segment Communications

Divide your audience into smaller groups based on certain behaviors or preferences. For example, you might designate your supporters by gift size, or by interest. This allows you to send targeted messaging that has a higher chance of inciting action.

15. Create Nurture Tracks

The right series of introductory and follow up information can turn a one-time supporter into an avid member of your community. Increase the lifetime value of your supporters by offering them a mix of information and opportunities to get involved that keeps them informed and inspired.

Create Nurture Tracks

Free Download: Donor Retention Email Templates

16. A/B Test Subject Lines

If your subject lines aren’t on point, your messages will fall on deaf ears. To improve conversions and drum up support, take the time to set a strategy, and regularly test iterations and apply key learnings.

Read Next: 8 Simple Steps to Better Email Open Rates

17. Create and Promote Original Content

Regularly produced, quality content has the power to draw in more support for your organization. Maintain a blog to build your brand, provide valuable information for your audience, and improve your search rankings and discoverability.

Social Media

A well-established social media community can bolster your fundraising efforts throughout the year. Try these tactics to expand your reach.

18. Run a Contest

People love free stuff. As long as your contest is clearly connected to your cause, this is a great way to introduce more people to your work. Advertise a gift bag of branded swag and ask entrants to follow your account, answer a question, and tag three friends in their comment to win.

Free Download: The Nonprofit’s Guide to Social Media

19. Leverage YouTube

Video is a powerful medium to raise awareness, and an active YouTube presence will support your organization’s ranking in search results. Set your channel up and optimize your videos to ensure you’re getting found.

Get the YouTube Tips Sheet for Nonprofits

More Growth Tactics

In addition to the strategies we’ve listed for peer-to-peer fundraising, recurring giving, events, crowdfunding, email, and social media, you can also employ the following concepts to grow your organization.

20. Set the Default for Supporters to Cover Fees

To take advantage of this small tweak, make sure your fundraising software allows donors to cover transaction fees when they make a donation.

Using Classy, you need simply enable Classy Mode to take advantage of this feature. When Classy Mode is on by default, donors tend to cover the fee 75 to 85 percent of the time.

21. Optimize Your Website for SEO

If potential supporters are searching for phrases related to your work, and you’re not ranking in Google’s search results, it’s a lost opportunity. Stay up to date on SEO best practices to organically raise awareness for our organization. The right website structure and small adjustments have the power to seriously impact results.

Read Next: 7 Quick SEO Tips

22. Invest in Digital Advertising

Digital advertising can feel like its own world, but once you know the lingo, you can make good use of strategic opportunities for your nonprofit. Organizations that leverage Google’s $10,000 in ad grants can garner over 5,000 new website visitors per month.

Free Download: The Nonprofit Digital Marketing Checklist

23. Connect Your Offline and Online Worlds

With the advent of online fundraising, it’s more important than ever to marry your offline strategies with your online presence. Use your direct mail to point to your online campaigns to stay consistent and provide options for donors to give in their preferred method, whatever it may be.

Maximize the Power of Offline and Online
Integrate your two fundraising channels
Download the Guide

24. Leverage Holidays and Pop Culture Trends

Pop culture references, humor, and clever ties to the holidays are great ways to appeal to a larger audience and introduce people to your cause.

Your nonprofit is doing serious work, but it can be just as powerful to inject light-hearted themes into your campaigns that delight supporters and are relevant to their day-to-day lives.

25. Survey Your Audience to Supercharge Your Growth Strategy

When you survey your audience, you have the opportunity to gather information that can take your entire strategy to the next level. With the right questions, you’ll better understand how to engage with your community member in a way that resonates and the types of topics that are important to them.

Free Download: 100 Donor Survey Questions

Looking for more fundraising ideas? Read:

Want to learn more about fundraising ideas that can grow your nonprofit? Check out the extended sessions library from the Collaborative: Virtual Sessions below, where you can watch all the recordings from the event and hear from industry experts on fundraising and marketing best practices, data trends, and more. We look forward to hosting the Collaborative again next year in some capacity. Go to classy.org/collaborative and sign up to be the first to get details on our 2021 event.

Access the Collaborative Extended Sessions

Access the Collaborative Extended Sessions

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